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"Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."
-------Leonardo da Vinci (Italian polymath, 1452~1519)-----
Teenage prodigy Souta Fujii has achieved his 50th official match victory in shogi, or Japanese chess. The Japan Shogi Association says he reached the benchmark faster than any other professional player.
The 15-year-old won the game in a qualification tournament for a major title on Tuesday.
His career record of 50 wins and 6 losses excludes the results of TV matches that have yet to be broadcast.
Fujii became the youngest professional shogi player in history when he was 14 years and 2 months old. He went on to win 29 games in a row, breaking a record that stood for 30 years.
Fujii said it was a tough match and he wasn't sure of his win until the final moment. He said he was pleased that he was able to reach the benchmark by concentrating on every game
US President Donald Trump has designated North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
Trump on Monday made the announcement amid heightening international criticism of Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programs.
Trump said, "In addition to threatening the world by nuclear devastation, North Korea has repeatedly supported acts of international terrorism including assassinations on foreign soil."
Washington originally placed the North on the list in 1988. But President George W Bush removed it from the list in 2008.
The listing is expected to trigger an angry response by North Korea.
Japan's Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko have visited residents in Okinoerabu Island on the final day of a 3-day tour of southwestern remote islands in Kagoshima Prefecture.
On Saturday, the couple visited a lily farmer. A local specialty is a type of Easter lily, known as "Erabuyuri." The farmer ships about 250,000 lilies a year.
The Empress moved her face close to the lilies and praised their white petals and fragrance.
The couple then visited an elementary school and watched students making brown sugar with an apparatus. The work-study program has continued for more than 3 decades at the school.
The Emperor asked the children if the equipment for extracting sugarcane juice was heavy. The Empress sampled brown sugar made by the children and told them that it was sweet and tasty.
All of the 80 pupils at the school then sang a song about the local lily in front of an old banyan tree. The song describes the lily as the island's treasure, and how it supports the livelihoods of the people.
The Emperor and Empress listened to the song carefully and applauded with smiles. They later asked each pupil how things were going at the school.
The Emperor thanked the children for their performance, and wished them a fulfilling life.
At the airport on their way back to Tokyo, the couple repeatedly looked back and waved to people who came to see them off.
A long-lost painting of Jesus Christ by Leonardo da Vinci has fetched a record 450 million dollars in an auction in New York.
Auction house Christie's put up the Renaissance master's work for the bidding on Wednesday night.
Da Vinci is believed to have created "Salvator Mundi," or "Savior of the World" in English, around 1500. That's before his most iconic work, "Mona Lisa."
The painting depicts Christ wearing a deep blue robe and raising his right hand in blessing, while holding a crystal sphere in his left hand.
Officials of Christie's say the work was the only privately owned da Vinci painting among 16 known to exist. They expected it to fetch 100 million dollars or more.
The bidding competition continued for nearly 20 minutes.
The officials say it was bought at 450.3 million dollars including a fee to the auction house. They say the price was the highest for any work of art sold ever in auctions.
They remain mum on who won the bid.
The painting was recorded in the British royal family's collection in the 17th century. It disappeared in the mid-18th century and was rediscovered in 1900.
For many years, it was not considered a da Vinci work because it was partly painted over. Experts confirmed its authenticity in 2011 after restoration work was done.
The Japanese city of Osaka is drumming up support for its bid to host the 2025 World Expo.
Representatives from Osaka made an appeal on Wednesday at a general assembly of the Paris-based Bureau of International Expositions. They stressed Japan's contributions to the developing world.
Osaka mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura used visual images to show innovative designs of a prospective venue.
The mayor also explained that the venue will be a 20- minute subway ride from the center of the city.
Chieko Fujita, an employee of a firm that helps developing countries secure safe drinking water, stressed the importance of the world sharing the latest technological achievements to tackle challenges faced by mankind.
Joachim Rutayisire, a native of Rwanda who studied information technology at a university near Osaka, said he is convinced Osaka and its vicinity will provide an ideal place to create a better future.
3 other cities, France's Saclay outside Paris, Yekaterinburg in Russia and Baku in Azerbaijan, also made presentations to host the 2025 World Expo
US President Donald Trump has stressed the success of his recent tour to Asia, his first since taking office.
Trump summed up his trip in a White House speech on Wednesday.
The president said that throughout his trip, he asked all nations to support the US campaign of maximum pressure for North Korea's denuclearization.
He said the nations are responding by cutting trade with North Korea, restricting financial ties to the regime and expelling North Korean diplomats and workers.
Trump noted that he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reaffirmed joint efforts to denuclearize the North.
He said Japan committed to shouldering more of their common defense by deepening investment in its own military, including purchases of US advanced weapons from jet fighters to missile defense systems worth billions of dollars.
Trump did not refer in Wednesday's speech to whether the US would put North Korea back on the list of states sponsoring terrorism.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike says she wants to step down as president of the opposition party Hope.
The party elected Lower House lawmaker Yuichiro Tamaki as co-leader last week.
Koike met Tamaki on Monday and entrusted him with appointing new leadership for the party.
On Tuesday, the governor told the party's lawmakers in both chambers of the Diet she will resign as president and leave party affairs to the new leadership.
Koike launched Hope in September. She and former head of the opposition Democratic Party Seiji Maehara decided to effectively merge their parties.
But the decision split the Democrats over issues such as Japan's new national security legislation.
Hope fielded 235 candidates in last month's general election, but won only 50 seats. That's 7 fewer than what it had before the vote.
Koike said after the election that she would stay on as president but have lawmakers run the party.
When Tamaki was elected co-leader, Koike rallied support for him.
Koike is expected to focus on running the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.
The Japan Sumo Association says it will look into allegations that Yokozuna grand champion Harumafuji assaulted a junior wrestler.
Rank-and-file wrestler Takanoiwa is sitting out of the current 15-day Grand Sumo Tournament that began last Sunday in Fukuoka, western Japan.
He submitted a doctor's report on Monday recommending 2 weeks of treatment for a fractured skull, concussion and other injuries.
Several sumo association sources are saying that Harumafuji struck Takanoiwa's head with a beer bottle during a regional tour. The incident reportedly took place on October 26th during a gathering of wrestlers from Mongolia.
Association officials plan to interview the stable masters of the wrestlers involved, to verify what happened.
Yokozuna Harumafuji has offered his apologies.
Harumafuji told reporters on Tuesday morning that he is deeply sorry for causing trouble to Takanoiwa's stable master, members of his support group and the sumo association.
But he said he will not respond to questions about the alleged assault until after he consults his stable master.
The South Korean military says a North Korean soldier defected to the South on Monday in Panmunjom, a village in the demilitarized zone between the 2 Koreas.
The Joint Chiefs of Staff says the male soldier fled a North Korean guard post to a South Korean facility called Freedom House.
The military also says the man was shot by the North Korean side, and is being treated at a hospital.
It adds that it raised the alert level against the North after the defection.
The village is jointly managed by the 2 Koreas and the United Nations command.
Inter-Korean summit talks are sometimes held there. Guided tours are available from Seoul and Pyongyang.
The demilitarized zone runs across the Korean Peninsula from west to east. Most parts are in the mountains and heavily mined.
North Korean soldiers have crossed the minefields to get to South Korea.
But defections are rare in heavily guarded Panmunjom.
There have been only 2 such cases until now -- one in 1998 and the other in 2007.
US President Donald Trump has called on ASEAN member nations to be independent and "satellites to no one," in an implied warning against China's increasing influence in the region.
President Trump met with ASEAN leaders at the summit in Manila on Monday.
Trump expressed his intention to take a leading role to ensure stability in the region that extends from the Pacific to the Indian Ocean, and includes Southeast Asia.
The US president is believed to have called for cooperation from the regional bloc to isolate North Korea over its nuclear and missile development programs.
All ASEAN members have diplomatic ties with North Korea.
President Trump is expected to wrap up his first Asian tour since he took office in January after attending the East Asia Summit on Tuesday
Japan's Defense Ministry has exhibited a domestically produced transport aircraft at a major air show in the United Arab Emirates.
Speaking to reporters at the show on Sunday, ministry officials said the C-2 plane can carry a helicopter or an armored vehicle, which the older C-1 cannot.
They said the C-2 can fly longer and carry heavier cargo than the C-1. They said this is partly because the C-2's body is lighter as it is made from composite materials such as carbon fiber.
The Defense Ministry says it will promote the C-2's performance to the UAE government during the show as it is showing interest in the aircraft.
The Japanese government plans to strictly screen defense equipment transfers to other nations in compliance with 3 principles adopted in 2014.
Parliamentary Vice-Minister of Defense, Keitaro Ono, said in the UAE that he wants other nations to know the C-2's capabilities.
He says the government will decide whether exporting the aircraft to the UAE will be in line with Japan's strategy and the new principles
The leaders of the United States and China have sat down for much-anticipated talks.
North Korea and trade are likely to have dominated the agenda. Xi Jinping and Donald Trump started out by praising the common ground they had found so far in informal talks.
Xi said, "We believe China-US relations are important for the well-being of the people of the two nations, and contribute to peace, prosperity and stability of the world. The cooperation is the only right choice for the United States and China."
Trump said, "Discussing North Korea, I do believe there is a solution to that as you do. Discussing trade with the United States, knowing that the United States really has to change its policies because they have gotten so far behind on trade with China."
There's a lot of attention in the US being given to how Trump will try to deal with that trade gap he mentioned.
And on North Korea, Trump is also believed to have urged Xi to step up pressure to rein in the North's nuclear and missile development.
The US administration sees China as key to influencing the North because it is the reclusive country's largest trading partner.
Multilingual robot concierges have been unveiled in Tokyo prior to trials that will gauge their ability to welcome visitors to the 2020 Olympics and Paralympics.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike attended an unveiling ceremony at the Tokyo Metropolitan Government headquarters on Thursday.
The metropolitan government plans to start testing 5 different types of robots from next Monday. They can communicate in several languages, including Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean.
At Thursday's event, Governor Koike asked one of the robots how tall the government main office building is. It gave the correct answer -- 243 meters.
Koike also tested the robot's language ability by asking in English what the UNESCO world heritage site in Tokyo is. Cheers erupted from the audience as the robot replied that it is the Ogasawara Islands.
Koike said the metropolitan government has decided to seek the robots' assistance in welcoming foreign visitors.
She added that her government will continue to promote and conduct pilot programs with advanced technologies.
The trial will run through late February of next year. The metropolitan government hopes that the robots will be ready for work in time for the 2020 Games.
Japanese astronaut Soichi Noguchi says he's excited about his third mission to the International Space Station.
The 52-year-old Noguchi has been chosen as a crewmember for the ISS expedition to begin around the end of 2019. He's expected to stay in the station for about 6 months. At age 54, he would be the oldest Japanese astronaut to fly to space.
Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Noguchi said it was unimaginable when he was a child that someone over 50 would travel to space, as people in those days retired at age 55.
He said he wants to show that it's possible and inspire his generation and children.
The mission may use a new vehicle being developed by a private US company. Noguchi said he's excited about the chance to ride on a new type of spacecraft that will become a leading player in manned spaceflight.
He said he wants to train for the mission by making the most of his experience from his past 2 spaceflights.
Noguchi is expected to train in Japan and the United States this month.
His first spaceflight was in 2005, when he performed repair and assembly work on the ISS. Noguchi was the 6th Japanese astronaut to fly in space.
Since December 2009, he has spent more than 160 days on the ISS.
US President Donald Trump is to deliver a speech at South Korea's parliament on Wednesday. He is expected to call on the international community to apply maximum pressure on North Korea, which continues to pursue its nuclear and missile programs.
Trump is on his first tour of Asian countries since taking office.
On Tuesday, he sat down for talks with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. They agreed to put further pressure on Pyongyang.
But there was a slight difference in the tone of the remarks they made at their joint news conference. Trump said the US is prepared to defend itself and its allies using the full range of its unmatched military capabilities, if necessary.
Moon, on the other hand, stressed that the 2 leaders will continue to lead the efforts to find a peaceful solution to the nuclear crisis.
Trump said South Korea would be purchasing more US military equipment. He also said he feels confident that the 2 countries will be able to reach a free and fair trade deal as they renegotiate their bilateral free trade agreement.
On the second day of his first visit to Japan, US President Donald Trump met with the Emperor and Empress.
Trump was greeted by the Imperial Couple at the entrance of the palace in the center of Tokyo.
Trump's next stop will be to receive an honor guard at the State Guest House where he will have talks with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Abe said, "I'd like to thoroughly discuss with President Trump North Korea and other problems the international community faces. And I want to send a message to the world that the Japan-US alliance is unwavering."
Trump started his day by meeting with Japanese and American business leaders and gave an address.
He criticized Japan for its trade practices.
Trump said, "We want fair and open trade. But right now our trade with Japan is not fair and it's not open. But I know it will be soon. We want free reciprocal trade, but right now trade with Japan is not free, and it's not reciprocal. And I know it will be."
Later on Monday, Trump will meet with the families of Japanese nationals abducted by North Korea.
The abduction issue is something Japan wants to resolve along with the nuclear threat. Trump and Abe will then hold a joint news conference.
A Swiss research institute has downgraded Japan by 3 notches to 114th place in a world gender equality ranking. The institute cited big gaps between men and women in politics and economics as the reason.
On Wednesday, the World Economic Forum, which hosts an annual meeting of the world's political and economic leaders in Davos, published this year's report on gender equality.
The institute analyzes gender gaps every year based on data in the areas of politics, economics, education, and health.
The report put Japan in 114th place among the 144 countries surveyed. It is the lowest ranking Japan has ever earned. Japan was also the lowest listed G7 industrialized nation.
Japan received a high mark in the area of health. But it was given low scores in politics and economics, given the low representation of women in politics and the wide wage gap between men and women.
Iceland retained the title of the world's most gender-equal society for the 9th straight year. It was followed by Nordic countries, such as Norway and Finland.
Among the major economies, France ranked 11th, Germany 12th, Britain 15th, the US 49th, and China 100th.
The World Economic Forum said gaps in education are shrinking, but those in politics and economics remain wide across the world. It warned that, at the current rate of change, it will take 217 years to close the economic gap. The Forum called on nations to do more to address the problems.
Two senior officials of a group of survivors of the 1945 atomic bombings in Japan will attend this year's Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Norway.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, for its efforts leading to the adoption of a landmark United Nations treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Japanese survivors, known as hibakusha, were asked to join the award ceremony to be held on December 10th in Oslo.
Nihon Hidankyo, or the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations, decided on Monday to send 2 of its senior members, Terumi Tanaka and Toshiki Fujimori, to the ceremony.
Nihon Hidankyo was active during negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which was adopted in July.
Members spoke to representatives from governments across the world about their experiences and called for the abolition of nuclear weapons.
The group also started a petition urging all countries to join the UN treaty, and collected signatures from more than 5 million people.
A survivor of the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima will deliver a speech at this year's Nobel Peace Prize award ceremony in Norway.
The Nobel Peace Prize for 2017 went to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN, for its efforts leading to the adoption of a landmark UN treaty to ban nuclear weapons.
Setsuko Thurlow, who now lives in Canada, will attend the award ceremony in Oslo on December 10th, together with ICAN's executive director, Beatrice Fihn.
She will give a speech after receiving a medal and a certificate.
During negotiations on the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, Thurlow spoke to representatives from governments across the world about her experiences as a "hibakusha."
Her accounts of the devastating consequences of the nuclear attack are widely believed to have been a major factor toward the adoption of the treaty in July.
ICAN says that Thurlow will be the first A-bomb survivor to speak at a Nobel Peace Prize ceremony.
She is expected to mention her experiences and her wishes for peace. She will also urge all countries, including Japan, to join the treaty.
Two other survivors will attend the ceremony from Japan. Nihon Hidankyo, or the Japan Confederation of Atomic and Hydrogen Bomb Sufferers Organizations, is now deciding who will attend.
US President Donald Trump has stressed that he will be working to solve the problems of North Korea's missile and nuclear threats.
Trump spoke in an interview with FOX TV on Wednesday, ahead of his visit to Japan, South Korea and China from November 5th.
He said he hopes his Asian tour will be historic and positive. He said they have to solve the North Korea issue, which he said is a very big problem. Trump said he will get it solved.
Asked about Chinese President Xi Jinping, Trump said he thinks Xi is a powerful man and a very good person. Trump said there will always be differences between the US and China, but he has a very good relationship with Xi.
Speaking about the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact, Trump said he feels honored to have terminated the deal before it got signed. He said the US will do bilateral deals with all the countries in the pact.
Hope leader Yuriko Koike has apologized for the political party's poor showing in Sunday's Lower House election. She put the blame on her words and actions. Koike has also indicated she will leave the party's management and leadership positions in the hands of Diet members.
On Wednesday, Koike, who also serves as Tokyo governor, spoke to party lawmakers from both houses of the Diet at their first meeting after the election.
Hope candidates took 50 seats, down from a pre-election tally of 57.
Koike said she wanted to apologize for causing her fellow members hardships with her words and deeds and for unintentionally hurting many people.
Koike added that it's extremely regrettable that so many talented members of the party lost in the election.
She said that as the party president, she has to bear responsibility for failing to produce good results.
But she went on to say that as Tokyo governor, she wants to move forward with the administration of the capital.
She said she will leave state affairs to the Diet members, and let the members discuss the line-up of the party's leadership and other matters.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo have agreed to work together on the Olympic and Paralympic Games in the 2 cities.
Tokyo will host the games in 2020 followed by Paris in 2024.
The 2 leaders met in Paris on Monday.
Hidalgo gave the Tokyo governor unwanted mobile phones, which will be used to produce medals for Olympic and Paralympic athletes.
They signed a joint statement pledging to cooperate on the environment, culture and tourism sectors as well as in hosting the Olympics and Paralympics.
In a separate meeting with London Mayor Sadiq Khan, Koike explained the Tokyo games' telecommuting project will be based on the success of the same at the London Games.
Later, Koike delivered a speech before business leaders at the French foreign ministry.
She said that Tokyo has launched new initiatives to attract more foreign businesses to the Japanese capital.
She noted as an example the Tokyo One-Stop Business Establishment Center where foreign companies and start-ups can get support on procedures needed to establish a business in the city.
She also mentioned a special zone where foreign doctors will provide medical care to visitors from other countries.
Japan's ruling coalition has won an overwhelming victory in Sunday's general election.
The Liberal Democratic Party and Komeito party maintained more than two-thirds of the Lower House seats, allowing them to propose the first amendment to the country's Constitution.
As of Monday morning, 461 of the chamber's 465 seats have been decided. The LDP, led by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, secured 283 seats, one less than before the election but far more than a simple majority of 233.
Komeito won 29, bringing the total of seats held by the ruling camp to 312.
Abe said the result reflected people's desire for the ruling bloc to produce concrete results on a stable political foundation. He pledged to do his best to meet their expectations.
On the opposition side, the Constitutional Democratic Party, or CDP, more than tripled its seat tally to 54, making it the main opposition. The party is a splinter group of the Democratic Party, which did not run any candidates in the election.
CDP President Yukio Edano said the party will fulfill its pledge to restore grassroots politics. He said it does not support amending the Constitution to approve the right of collective self-defense.
Tokyo governor Yuriko Koike's party, Hope, another upstart, won fewer-than-expected 49 seats.
Koike said her party aimed to become an alternative for voters critical of the Abe administration, but instead was widely criticized for how she presented its policies.
Both the CDP and Hope were founded right before the election campaign began.
Japanese Communist Party has won 12 seats, and Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party 10 seats.
The Social Democratic Party retained one seat.
The Party for Japanese Kokoro and the New Party DAICHI came away empty handed.
Japan's Empress Michiko turns 83 on Friday.
She reflected on events of the past year in her written response to questions from reporters.
The Empress referred to many people who still live in temporary housing as a result of the heavy rain in Japan's western region of Kyushu in July and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit northeastern Japan.
The Empress expressed whole hearted wishes that the evacuees will not lose hope and will spend the coming cold season taking good care of their health.
She noted a special law that allows her husband, Emperor Akihito, to abdicate. The Diet enacted the legislation in June.
She added the Emperor has explored for many years what the symbol of the state should be like. She said she feels unmeasurably great relief as the Emperor, who is now at an advanced age, will be able to spend days at rest. She wrote she is profoundly grateful to many people for making that possible.
The Empress wrote that her domestic trips with the Emperor in the past year were very moving as she thought she may never again visit the prefectures with him in their official capacities. She added that she admired the beauty of those places more deeply than before.
She also mentioned the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, or ICAN. The non-governmental organization won this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
She recognizes that Japan's position is complicated on the issue of nuclear weapons. But she said she believes it is immensely significant that global attention has finally turned to the inhumanity of nuclear arms and horrific results of their use following many years of efforts by survivors of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The Empress added she hopes the world will realize that the hearts of those survivors have never pursued revenge, which would create a chain of fighting, but have constantly sought peace for the future.
The crew members of a missing Japanese Air Self-Defense Force helicopter did not report that there was an emergency when they contacted ground control.
The UH-60 helicopter was conducting a nighttime search-and-rescue drill, when it disappeared from the radar screen on Tuesday evening.
The helicopter was flying over the sea, about 30 kilometers south of the ASDF base in Hamamatsu, which is located in central Japan. It was carrying 4 crewmembers.
The Defense Ministry says it has spotted a door bearing the ASDF letters, a stretcher, and other objects floating in the ocean. The ministry says that the helicopter probably went down.
ASDF officials say the chopper left the Hamamatsu base at 5:51 PM and dropped off the radar 11 minutes later.
They maintain that, when air controllers last contacted the crew, 5 minutes before the disappearance, the crewmembers did not report an emergency.
The Defense Ministry believes the helicopter experienced some kind of difficulty and crashed a short time later.
The search for the missing crewmembers is continuing. The ministry is investigating what happened.
The prefectural government of Hiroshima is asking the US military to clarify if some of its fighter jets conducted aerial training maneuvers that released flares above part of the prefecture, alarming local residents.
A number of people in Kitahiroshima Town captured video footage on Wednesday of what appeared to be flares coming from US military aircraft.
One of the residents says 2 aircraft were carrying out training exercises above their town for about 30 minutes. He said he sees fighters flying overhead several times a month, but this is the first time in about 20 years that he's spotted what looks like live flares.
Officials of the prefecture and the town believe the flares may be aerial infrared countermeasures used to distract heat-seeking missiles from the target aircraft.
The officials visited the local bureau of Japan's Defense Ministry in Hiroshima City on Monday and asked the ministry to confirm facts with the US side.
They said the ministry's official replied they are aware of what had been spotted, and have already asked the US military.
The development comes as growing numbers of people in and around Kitahiroshima register complaints about US combat aircraft training at low altitudes.
The prefecture has asked the central government that such US military exercises be suspended.
A prefectural official, Koshi Yamamoto, told NHK that anxiety is spreading among local residents as the exercise was conducted right above where they live.
He said he wants a detailed explanation, especially as this latest incident comes when the US military is moving a carrier air wing from Atsugi in eastern Japan to the Iwakuni air station in a neighboring prefecture.
A Japan Air Self-Defense official says its aircraft normally conduct training that releases flares off the coast to avoid areas where people live.
A sumo grand champion, or Yokozuna, has performed a ring-entering ceremony at a UNESCO World Heritage site in Japan's ancient capital of Kyoto.
The event was held at Kamigamo Shrine on Sunday.
Yokozuna Kisenosato performed the ritual in the unryu-style. Spectators cheered as he stamped the ground.
A junior high school student said Kisenosato's performance was very powerful.
A woman in her 60s said she was thrilled to see the Yokozuna and that she was surprised at how big he is.
Massive wildfires in the US state of California have killed 36 people. They have also seriously polluted the air.
California State officials say that, since Sunday, fires in the northern part of the state have burned about 90,000 hectares, mainly in the wine-producing counties of Sonoma and Napa.
They say that about 5,700 homes and stores have been destroyed, and that around 90,000 people have been evacuated.
Police in Sonoma County, where 19 deaths have been confirmed, said on Friday that they had not been able to contact many residents. They say officers have been visiting the homes of missing persons.
The US Environmental Protection Agency says its air quality index for San Francisco has worsened since the fires began. The city is about 80 kilometers south of Napa County.
Local media outlets are reporting that the city's air quality is now as bad as in Beijing.
The air pollution has forced the organizers of a half marathon to cancel the event. It was scheduled for Sunday
People living near the site where an American military helicopter made an emergency landing in Okinawa Prefecture will ask authorities to demand the US military stop using helipads situated around their district.
Fourteen representatives of the Takae district in Higashi Village met on Thursday, one day after the incident. They decided to request the Okinawa defense bureau make the demand and offer locals an explanation and apology.
Fire broke out on a CH-53 helicopter based at the US Marine Corps Futenma Air Station while it was on a training flight. The chopper made an emergency landing on privately owned grazing land in Takae and burst into flames.
The landing site is about 300 meters from the nearest house and is located close to the US military's Northern Training Area.
Last December, the United States returned around half of the training area to Japanese administration in return for the completion of 6 military helipads that surround the district.
District leader Kumiko Nakamine said she wonders when residents' concerns will be dispelled. She added she will lodge a stronger request than before to prevent any recurrence.
Japanese Defense Ministry officials say they've been notified by the US military that a CH-53 helicopter caught fire after it landed near the US military's Northern Training Area on Okinawa island late Wednesday afternoon.
Local firefighters say they were notified that a US military helicopter had crashed, and black smoke was rising in the Takae district shortly past 5:30 PM.
US military officials say the helicopter was based at the Marine Corps Futenma Air Station. They say no one was injured in the incident, but the helicopter is on fire.
Okinawa prefectural police say there have been no reports of injury.
The CH-53 is a large helicopter used mainly to transport personnel. It crashed on a university campus adjacent to Futenma Air Station in 2004.
Video posted on Twitter shows flames and black smoke rising from the helicopter in a grassy field.
Voters across Japan began casting their ballots on Wednesday in the early voting system for the general election scheduled for October 22nd.
The official campaign for the election kicked off on Tuesday.
At a polling station inside the municipal office of Matsuyama City, Ehime Prefecture in western Japan, voters were casting their ballots after writing down the reasons why they cannot vote on the voting day.
The upcoming election will be the first held on a nationwide scale since those aged 18 and 19 became eligible to vote. Because of this, polling stations for early voting have been set up inside some universities and high schools.
More than 13 million voters, or about 12.65 percent of the total, cast ballots in early voting in the previous general election in December 2014.
Early voting stations will be open until October 21st, a day before the voting day.
Japanese nationals living abroad have begun voting in the Lower House election.
Ballot stations are set up at 223 locations outside the country, including embassies and consulates.
About 101,000 Japanese are registered to vote overseas.
They can vote in the constituency where they last lived, as well as in the proportional representation segment.
Voting at Japan's embassy in the South Korean capital, Seoul, began on Wednesday morning. About 2,500 Japanese are registered there to vote.
The period of voting varies by region, but all voting ends next Monday.
Embassy officials will bring the ballots back to Japan to be counted on election day, October 22nd.
The election will be contested mainly among 3 camps -- the former ruling coalition of the Liberal Democratic and Komeito parties, one comprising the party of Hope and Nippon Ishin Japan Innovation Party, and a camp of the Japanese Communist, the Constitutional Democratic and Social Democratic parties.
Political candidates and party officials across Japan are filing paperwork and launching their campaigns for the Lower House election scheduled for October 22nd.
Party candidates and independents are going after the 465 seats in the Lower House.
289 lawmakers will be elected directly and 176 through a system of proportional representation.
The threshold for a majority is 233 seats.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has said if his ruling coalition doesn't reach that, he'll step down.
Abe's Liberal Democratic Party and its coalition partner Komeito are facing stiff competition from a divided opposition.
Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike has formed a party called Hope which is collaborating with Nippon Ishin.
And another upstart, the Constitutional Democratic Party, is working together with the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party.
The largest opposition party effectively split.
Most of its members will be running under Hope, the Constitutional Democratic Party, or as independents.
Candidates are debating issues like the performance of the Abe administration, a consumption tax hike the government has scheduled for 2019, and amending the Constitution
Japanese accordionist coba has been granted honorary citizenship of an Italian city which produces the majority of that instrument.
Over the last 26 years coba has held concerts in more than 60 countries. He is now a globally famous accordionist.
A ceremony was held on Saturday in the central Italian city of Castelfidardo which is known as the epicenter of the accordion. 95 percent of the instruments used by professional musicians are produced in the city.
About 100 people gathered at the award ceremony to celebrate coba becoming the first Japanese to be given honorary citizenship.
The mayor of Castelfidardo praised the musician for his achievements in promoting the accordion globally.
He received applause when he played his own composition.
A local man said that coba is an extraordinary artist and an ambassador who has spread the beauty of the accordion worldwide.
In the 1970s, coba began to hone his accordion skills in the city as a student. He said that it is extremely exciting that he was recognized in the city where he started his professional career.
A Japan-born British author has won this year's Nobel Prize in Literature. Kazuo Ishiguro has received wide acclaim for "The Remains of the Day" and other novels.
Ishiguro was born in Nagasaki. His family moved to Britain when he was 5 years old and he later became a British citizen. At university, Ishiguro studied literature and creative writing.
He made his literary debut in 1982 with "A Pale View of Hills," set in Japan after the atomic bombing of Nagasaki.
"The Remains of the Day" tells the story of an aging British butler recalling the prime of his life and the glory of English gentility before World War II.
His 2005 bestseller, "Never Let Me Go," depicted a group of orphans in an institute raised to become organ donors.
Many of his novels depict characters reflecting on their past and wondering about who they have become.
The Swedish Academy cited Ishiguro for "novels of great emotional force." It said he has "uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world."
The deputy president of the opposition Democratic Party, Yukio Edano, has announced plans to form a new party.
The move comes after party President Seiji Maehara last week said his party will not field any candidates for the coming election, and instead urged its members to run in a party recently founded by Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike.
Maehara said his party must do whatever is necessary to force the administration of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from power.
But Koike later said her party, named Hope, will only accept Democrats who agree with her views on national security, the Constitution and other major issues.
On Monday, Edano, a high-ranking member of the Democratic Party, said he reached the conclusion that the ideologies and policies of Koike's party differ from those of the Democrats.
Edano said he will launch the Constitutional Democratic Party of Japan to safeguard constitutionalism, democracy and a free society.
He added that voters supportive of the Democratic Party have bemoaned the lack of choice in the upcoming snap election after Maehara announced that no candidates from his party would be fielded.
He stressed that he is backed by many people who urged him to create a political option.
On the Lower House election planned for October 22nd, Edano said he wants to make his new party a group that vocally criticizes Abe's handling of political matters and his policies that fail to serve the people's needs.
He also renewed his opposition to amending the Constitution.
Edano expressed confidence that his party will win the backing of the Democratic Party's largest support group, the Japanese Trade Union Confederation, or Rengo, as his party is in tandem to Rengo in sharing the viewpoints of ordinary workers and taxpayers.